Voices in the wilderness

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Who in this secular age can hear these voices crying in the wilderness? Who can deny, in good faith, that they tell us truths on which the future well-being of our race depends, indeed the very preservation of our civilization?

First, these words, written just over twenty years ago and rooted in Christian anthropology:

 It must never be forgotten that the disordered use of sex tends progressively to destroy the person’s capacity to love by making pleasure, instead of sincere self-giving, the end of sexuality and by reducing other persons to objects of one’s own gratification. In this way the meaning of true love between a man and a woman (love always open to life) is weakened as well as the family itself. Moreover, this subsequently leads to disdain for the human life which could be conceived, which, in some situations, is then regarded as an evil that threatens personal pleasure. “The trivialization of sexuality is among the principal factors which have led to contempt for new life. Only a true love is able to protect life”.[i]

Who would have thought that in the space of those twenty odd years, this understanding of our nature and the foundations of our society would have been denied and forgotten so emphatically by a majority of the people of Ireland?

What has happened to cause this change, essentially a change in our perception of what it is to be human in the fullest sense, a radical change in the way we understand ourselves and our nature? Can it be the answer lies in these other words, also now heard only in the wilderness?

Now, we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God: that we may know the things that are given us from God. Which things also we speak: not in the learned words of human wisdom, but in the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the sensual man perceiveth not these things that are of the Spirit of God. For it is foolishness to him: and he cannot understand, because it is spiritually examined.[ii]

Those were the words of St. Paul addressing the first followers of the Christian Way in the City of Corinth. They also, it appears, had lost their grasp of what that Way said about the human condition in this world and what the choices it presented to them obliged them to do. A four hundred year old note of explanation on that text clarifies what he meant:

The sensual man—the spiritual man. . .The sensual man is either he who is taken up with sensual pleasures, with carnal and worldly affections; or he who measureth divine mysteries by natural reason, sense, and human wisdom only. Now such a man has little or no notion of the things of God. Whereas the spiritual man is he who, in the mysteries of religion, takes not human sense for his guide: but submits his judgment to the decisions of the church, which he is commanded to hear and obey. For Christ hath promised to remain to the end of the world with his church, and to direct her in all things by the Spirit of truth.[iii]

Choice is good but choices have consequences and it is the consequences of our choices that are ultimately more important than whether or not we have the freedom to choose. The consequences of ignoring that the disordered use of sex tends progressively to destroy the person’s capacity to love will be far more devastating for both individual lives and for our society that would be any restrictions our laws might put on our right to choose freely life-styles which institutionalize the abuse of our nature.

But if our society, in its laws, customs and practices, does ignore the principles of good and evil all is not lost. The individual need not lose sight of those principles and this is precisely why adherence to the single greatest body of knowledge articulating moral truth to which history bears witness stands with us to protect us from the evils our folly might otherwise bring down upon ourselves. That body of knowledge is contained in the Magisterium of the Christ’s Church – its Sacred Scriptures and Traditions.

So those in Ireland today, indeed all of those throughout the world, who find themselves perplexed and bewildered by the insanities spewing out of modernity, post-modernity and cultural Marxism, do have a solution. Listen to the voices which are echoing in the wilderness created by those cultural aberrations and in thought word and deed try to live by them. The message of love at their heart – demanding and utterly counter-cultural as it is in this day and age – has the key to the future of our civilization just as it did in the day of the prophets of the Old Testament, in the New Testament when it was newly new, and in countless epochs since then when cultural forces were captivated by those who measure divine mysteries by natural reason, sense, and human wisdom only.

[i] THE TRUTH AND MEANING OF HUMAN SEXUALITY: Guidelines for Education within the Family, (section 105), THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE FAMILY.

[ii]  New Testament, Douay-Rheims, 1 Corinthians 2. 12ff

[iii]  Ibid. Archbishop Challoner note on 1 Corinthians 2.

Is this what the denial of unconditional love for both really means?

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REJECTED IN THE NEW RACISM

Ireland is a country divided in a divided world. The Republic of Ireland is not a fraction as divided from those six counties of Ulster in the United Kingdom, as it is by the division  between the adherents of post-sixties modernity, and the adherents of a Christian culture which has been the hallmark of Western civilization for 2000 years. A cold, cold civil war continues unabated in Ireland. It is not a pleasant thought, but this conflict is nothing more or less than a race war, symbolized by the chilling rejection by two thirds of its voting electorate of the LoveBoth logo of the defenders of the right to life of human beings in their mothers’ wombs.

Any among the LoveBoth campaigners who happened to be able to endure the triumphalism of the victors in that historic referendum, will have wondered where their citizenship went last Saturday morning when they heard a (fairly) famous Irish journalist proclaim that at last Ireland was now “one nation”.

Yesterday, after a walk along St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, I posted what amounted to a kind of cry for help on social media, the only way I could find at the time of dealing with a troubling existential experience.

I admitted that I was unable to look at the faces of those who passed me. The thought that two in every three were prepared to allow the killing of children in the womb was too potent a spark for enmity for me to deal with. I just had to look away. God help us! I said.

It struck a chord with a good number of people. One in particular, from the other side of the divide, seemed to want to help me bridge the chasm I was facing.

“Can I ask a genuine question?” She said. “How do you feel Irish society can move forward together following the referendum as there are such strong feelings on both sides?”

For my part, I could only reply to this effect, “I just don’t know. I am doing my best to resist hostility – of which we are receiving so much it makes it very difficult. The objective moral reality of this is shattering.”

She responded, disclosing formally that she was “pro-choice” – which I knew already –  saying that what concerned her was the ongoing split and that there didn’t seem to be any answers. “I…would like to think there is some way forward for all that is less divisive than (what) is happening now. Hopefully for all our sakes a more harmonious future awaits!” I felt unable to offer that hope. Why?

One of the biggest obstacles Ireland – and indeed the rest of the Western world faces when it comes to this particular battle in our ongoing culture war – is that there is no basis for dialogue so long as one side refuses to engage with the other on the central issue of identity at its heart. Throughout the campaign in Ireland the pro-abortion side studiously avoided using the word “baby”, the word “child”, even the word “mother”. What we got instead, constantly and repeatedly at every turn, were the words “health”, “compassion”,  “choice” and “my body”.

At the evil heart of racism resides the irrational conviction that one category of human being is less than – or not at all a member of – our own species. History is replete with many sad examples of the consequences of racism: in another era, the English treatment of the Celtic peoples in general, and the Irish in particular, over many centuries; the enslavement of Africans over centuries of colonialism, working its way through the bloody American Civil War and only ending in that hemisphere – legally at least – with the civil rights legislation of relatively recent times, and with the end of apartheid in ours.

Wherever racism was rampant, for the length of time it took to overcome it, the members of the dominant strain of our species who fought against this evil force and identified with the oppressed, were abused and sometimes persecuted and murdered for their acceptance of the common humanity which they dared to proclaim. For as long as racism persists,  racists refuse to debate the central premise of those who oppose them – the undeniable human identity of those it wishes to ignore, oppress, or, as in the case of Nazi Germany, eliminate altogether.

In the Irish referendum just concluded we have just had the latest example of this phenomenon. The defenders of the unborn humans in the wombs of their mothers again and again, scientifically, instinctively, morally, presented the case for the human identity of the gestating child. Again and again their arguments were sidestepped and ignored. There was no debate. For one side the child in the womb was simply not human, not of our race, so therefore the constitutional right to life enjoyed by those already born could not and should not be extended to these essentially alien things, mere invading “clumps of cells”. Now Ireland’s lawmakers are getting ready, on the basis of a mandate from two-thirds of the electorate, to pass a law to facilitate the killing of any among these non-beings whom other human beings decide should not live. All those who resist them will be deemed not part of the Irish nation and sidelined – at best.

Am I wrong in equating this reality with racism? I may be. But until someone is prepared to come and talk to me about it, and show me the error of my ways, I cannot move from where I stand – for to me it seems exactly where we are.

The legend of Parsifal tells the story of a wound inflicted on mankind – in the person of King Amfortas. The wound festers and resists all attempts to heal it until the one true and pure knight, Parsifal, is found. He, the embodiment of truth, innocence and simplicity heals Amfortas and humanity.

Ireland, and indeed the secularist West as a whole, is inflicted with a deep and festering wound at whose heart lies the central issue in the debate over abortion, recognition of the human identity of the unborn. Until such time as a knight like Parsifal comes to our aid and gets us to face our willful cowardice in the face of this truth, then our crippling divisions will persist with all the pain that goes with them.

COMMENTS

This article also appeared on the website, MercatorNet.com, where it attracted the following comments:

There is and will be a way to bridge the split. It is the one being realized in every pro-abortion country. It is called pragmatism. Being pro-abortion does not and cannot work. Ireland once was abundant in energetic intelligent people. They were Ireland’s only natural resource but with that resource they outpaced many countries like the Ukraine that has all the resources but insufficient people. Because you cannot run a free market economy with a declining population, I assure you that Ireland’s economy will decline exponentially as its population declines. Moreover because an abortion is only and always detrimental to the health of a woman, Ireland’s health care budget will spiral up which will put increasing pressure on health care providers to give their elders an early, dignified of course, death. All this and more will be realized all too late to reverse the trend. Don’t believe me? Ask any citizen of a Nordic country.

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  • NOTE: The picture appears to be from a previous referendum held in 2002 which tried to tighten the laws around abortion.

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    “Am I wrong in equating this reality with racism?”

    No, good point – and, similarly, in equating it to slavery too where one individual exists for or at the convenience of the other.

Ireland goes the way of the world – for now

Demonstrators take part in a 'Pro-Life' rally, ahead of a May 25 referendum on abortion law, in the centre of Dublin
LOVING BOTH IS REJECTED

The words of James Joyce, which were once an offence to the people of his country, now, over one hundred years later, have become stunningly real for the estimated one third of Irish people who vainly tried to halt the tide of a modernity hostile to the unborn in the referendum which took place there on Friday.

In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Stephen Dedalus, talking about his country with his friend: “Do you know what Ireland is? asked Stephen with cold violence. Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow.” Too strong? No, says pro-life Ireland. What other interpretation is there when the majority in a country knowingly, willfully, declares that the deliberate killing of the unborn in the womb is permissible for no other reason than that it interferes with an individual’s comfort, convenience or life-style?

The Irish Government, willingly bowing to pressure, national and international, proposed to the electorate that the right to life of the unborn, guaranteed in its Constitution since 1983, be removed. This was to allow the legislature of the State to enact laws to facilitate unrestricted abortion up to 12 weeks gestation and up to 24 weeks on grounds which, in practice, will be abortion on demand. Needless to say, the proposals as presented were less stark than that, but given the pattern of what has happened in every other country with a liberal abortion law, the reality will inevitably be termination on demand. All the dissembling in the world will not change that.

Among the slogans of the pro-abortion campaigners were “Trust women”, “Trust doctors” and “Trust politicians” – that last somewhat bizarre given the economic debacle Irish politicians visited on their country just ten years ago. With regard to the two former, campaigners for the right to life of unborn children were a little baffled by both women and doctors asking for trust with those very lives which they were claiming the right to choose to terminate. They complained that logic or reason played very little part in the pro-choice armory and that all the emphasis was on emotional exploitation of the hard cases – rape, incest, limited life prospects of the baby in the womb and more. The human right to life, the human nature of the child in the womb, even its very existence, the avoidance of the very word abortion, they complained, characterized the pro-choice campaign throughout.

But the truth is, the Government which put this proposal to the people cannot be blamed anymore. This result has now clearly shown that it is the express will of the majority of the people of Ireland – about 90% of its young electorate – that the child in the womb not be constitutionally guaranteed a right to life. Choice is the supreme moral norm. The good or evil of what is chosen is, apparently, a matter of indifference. What has shocked the dissenting third of the Irish people is that so many have failed to see that the killing of the unborn is an evil thing.

Once again, for a world which has habitually looked on Ireland as a bastion of family values and marriage, all this comes as a surprise. The first sign of this upheaval came just three years ago. Then, when a similar majority voted in a referendum to change the very meaning of marriage to allow gay people to marry, there was one question, “How did this happen so quickly?”

Many explained away that rejection of one of the social foundations binding a community They read it firstly as a sympathy vote for a minority. Secondly, it was thought of as the result of a failure to grasp the social consequences which pro-marriage campaigners warned of. Again, reason and logic were trumped by emotion and a deceitful misuse of the concept of human equality.

It was not seen by the majority as an out and out rejection by the people of the teaching of the mainstream Christian churches. This, however, is different. This can hardly be seen as anything other than an upfront rejection by the majority of the Irish of the Christian teaching on the sacredness of human life, from the womb to the tomb – and beyond. There is no ambiguity here. There is little basis for a benign response, “they know not what they do.” It has all been done with astounding willfulness.

In this instance the Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic leaders were almost all unanimous in the guidance they gave to their followers on the matter of the sacredness of life. On 16 May the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Diarmuid Martin, explained in a statement:

“The Church must always be pro-life.  That means that the Christian community must be a beacon of support for life especially at its most vulnerable moments and a beacon of support at vulnerable moments of any woman or man along their path of life.

“Christians must be pro-life when it comes to the unborn and those who are vulnerable at the end of their lives.”

The significance of all this in Irish history is twofold. She has now abandoned the principle held for at least 1500 years that all human life is sacred. She has joined the community of secularist nations where relativism rules the roost and life is allowed to flourish only on the basis of the choice of someone other than the living subject in the womb. This is where Ireland now stands – and if anything good might be said by pro life people about this, it is only that it is good to know where one stands.

The second and more general significance which this revolution has is what it says about Catholicism and the Christian Faith in Ireland. What is now clear is that the Irish people’s traditional culture, derived from Christian culture, is now rudderless. Its values with regard to life, the family – and its grasp of the Catholic Faith which has held firm for centuries in the face of “fire, dungeon and sword” – have now “all changed, changed utterly”. For many – well for approximately 32% – something other than “a terrible beauty” has dawned on them. They now face the challenge of starting again. But one third of a population is not the weakest of bases from which to start. This will be the challenge for all the Christian churches to take up, as it picks up the pieces.

There was evidence throughout this campaign of anti-Catholic sentiment – despite the efforts of the pro-life organizations to present their arguments on predominantly rational grounds, grounds of scientific evidence of the human nature of the child and grounds of natural rights and justice. A Catholic priest, an American working in Dublin, made this interesting response on social media to a correspondent who said that the vote was nothing more or less than a vote against the Catholic Church.

“Yes, the vote was a vote against the Church. To my mind, a strange way to think about human rights.” Then, after reflecting for a moment on the undoubted failures of the Church on many levels, and remarking on its servants’ sad record when it  “always found the temptation to wed itself to power irresistible”, he concludes, “The Church arose in a pagan culture by being willing to die for truths, not kill for them. Profound humility and joyful witness to the good life is the way forward. The only way forward for the secular West is to figure out how to argue for love when it announces a loveless universe, and for the Church to live love so attractively it is irresistible despite being powerless.”

For the hard-working campaigners for the unborn who have sweated it out on the streets and the doorsteps of Ireland’s cities and towns for the past four months – a truly marathon run-in to a poll – there may echo in their ears the dying words of Hildebrand, that great medieval campaigner for truth and rights under the law, “I have loved justice and hated iniquity. Therefore I die in exile.”

On Friday, perhaps appropriately, the Catholic Church celebrated his feast day. To be a Christian in Ireland just now will, for many, have the taste of exile about it. It will demand not a little of the mettle of Hildebrand to begin again the mission to which all of them after all, by the very terms and conditions of their contract, are indeed committed.

A triumphant liberal pro-abortion columnist in yesterday’s Irish Times declared that “Middle Ireland” was dead. Now there is just Ireland. Without even thinking about the totalitarian implications of that proclamation, one third of Ireland probably begs to differ. They are already promising to make their voices heard loud and clear. Perhaps they will remain in exile for a while, strangers in a wilderness of moral social values. But they believe that eventually, by “living love so attractively that it will be irresistible, despite being powerless”, in the face of the secularist West and its “me, me, me” selfish and loveless universe, they can hope to triumph. They know that if it happened before it can happen again.

Black Panther and the fragmentation of our sense of what it is to be human

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There is an awful lot being written about Black Panther  which seems to point to significance far beyond its value as a work of entertainment – or even art. There is undoubtedly something extraordinary about it. There is also, however, something about it which nags – is this, on two fronts, just a bit too much more of the same? On the entertainment front, when one gets used to the wonderful African settings and the casting which the story demands, there is little about it to separate from the rest of Marvell’s universe. It is in its familiar ideological tropes, however, that its predictability mostly undermines the film.

Is Black Panther just one more barrage of cannon fire from the legions of Social Justice Warriors or is it more than that? A writer in America magazine, a solid SJW ally, says this is the movie Hollywood – and America – needs. On the other side of the divide Tom Slater in the contrarian Spiked.com complains that it just represents one more example of culture’s enslavement by politics.  “Superhero films are, let’s not forget, mainly for kids. That some political commentators seem to be discussing Wakanda (the idyllic fictional country at the heart of this Marvel artefact) as if it’s a real nation shows how ethereal, how obsessed with surface issues, how trivial, in fact, so much of supposedly radical politics now is.”

This is not a review of the movie. It is more an expression of uneasiness of what it and other elements of our culture may tell us about the path on which we, as human beings, now find ourselves.

There is no doubt but that we now live in a world where popular culture – and a great deal of the higher stuff as well – is undoubtedly in thrall to political correctness. The annual round of award events for the entertainment industry has ceased to have any real reliability as a guide to artistic merit. Instead they serve as a guide to the periodic shock-waves prompted by the revelation of the faux or real outrages trending on social and mainstream media. Indeed they are spoiled for choice when it comes to things to be outraged by. When award ceremonies are not infected with outrage, they are used to compensate for the shortcomings of past ceremonies. It is all pretty tiresome.

The critical consensus so far seems to be that Black Panther is a significant work of art. What it certainly seems to be is a work of ideology. That is no bad thing in itself. Ideologies should be judged on their merits, their correspondence with truth and justice and nothing else. Probably the worst of all ideologies is the ideology of ‘no ideology’.

Tom Slater asks that culture be liberated from politics. But the underlying problem is not really that political viewpoints emerge in art.  Great art has frequently been preoccupied by social and political issues. Consider the work of Victor Hugo (Les Miserables), Charles Dickens (Hard Times), Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness), to name but three.

The real problem is deeper and it is a problem which is manifested in contemporary culture across a whole range of issues. It is the problem of our descent into chaos caused by the utter fragmentation of our consciousness of what it is to be human. If there is a problem with the ideology permeating a phenomenon like Black Panther, it is that it is a symptom of this same fragmentation.

The preoccupations which increasingly seem to dominate our culture today – in the broadest sense of that word culture – are race, gender, religion, entitlement and equality. Our engagement with all these issues is ostensibly to seek some semblance of social justice for the oppressed or for those perceived as oppressed. Our efforts however, in many cases, seem to go in the opposite direction and all we achieve is a state of war rather than peace and real justice. The common thread which runs through all of them is a pursuit of identity. Each separate identity which is asserted then seems to have to pit itself against other identities in order to create and vindicate itself. For movements which purport to be inclusive, this is an incredibly divisive process and ultimately cannot but lead to chaos.

The implicit ideology underlying an artefact like Black Panther is that one race, a race which in one part of the world – which we generally call the West – has been viciously oppressed for centuries, is in fact a race superior to all others. It preaches this lightly and with some humour – but it still preaches.

Twentieth century Irish nationalism was a symptom of just such an ideology. One of the many tragedies of Irish history was the opportunity which was lost when an outward looking Celtic consciousness which had been beautifully woven together and fostered by the poets, playwrights and novelists of the literary revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was cruelly corrupted by a narrow nationalist ideology. This nationalism defined Irishness as a crude ‘not other’ identity, that is, “not British”. This, for most of that century, crippled the Irish popular imagination and at its most extreme boundary generated a hatred of that “other”.

The illusion which fed that hatred was that the injustices experienced by the oppressed in the past – and even in the present – were at source racially driven. Race – if it is meaningful at all – is a neutral amoral force. Racism, on the contrary, is a personal sin, personally driven by a flawed morality. The source of all injustice is ultimately in the individual human heart. The solution to all injustice, institutional or otherwise, must be sought in the same place – the human heart. In the Irish context the moral evolution of the heart and soul of W.E. Gladstone, one of the “others”, is an example of how such a journey might be made. The tragedy of his failure is an indictment of the divisiveness of narrow nationalism. Narrow racism is even more heinous. But it is not the sin of a race. It is a personal sin, of which only persons and not a race is culpable.

When a people and its culture loses the sense of its core universal humanity, for whatever reason, often provoked by the injustices inflicted by people in one group on those in another, then the risk is that this process of fragmentation will begin. What has to be done to prevent it? The solution is in the recognition and the reinforcement of the truth and beauty inherent in the very fact of being human. Setting in opposition to each other the differences which distinguish one from the other is a path to destruction. Setting man and woman against each other as representatives of patriarchies or matriarchies is a poisonous process. Setting people of one colour against those of another is not only poisonous but also utterly stupid.

Is Black Panther just another symptom of the cancer of identity politics currently and increasingly afflicting our culture and our global community?

Colonialism, imperialism and racism, with a sprinkling of feminism seem to be the contexts around which the underlying ideology of Black Panther revolves. Colonialism and imperialism are endemic conditions which infect all human societies. As the ages progress the first two of these uninvited guests just change their colour, chameleon-like, and continue to worm their way through our world.

But railing against them is about as futile as railing against the weather. Like the poor, they have always been with us and always will be. Like the weather they can be hot or cold, violent or temperate. Like the weather they can both wreak destruction or help cultivate the earth. Just as we find ways to protect ourselves against the weather, with these forces of human nature we have to find ways of taming and managing them.

But unlike the inanimate forces behind weather, the animate phenomena which mankind generates – good, bad or ugly – are rooted in the soul. Their impact on the societies which humans create and inhabit come back eventually to individual human acts. All human acts, as we know, have the capacity to be good, bad or indifferent. In our lives each one of us can do good or evil. Empires and colonialism provide ample evidence of our capacity for both. Mother Teresa of Calcutta would probably never have found herself in India if the British had not been there before her.

Writing of the phenomenon of empires in history, John Darwin in his book on the British Empire, Unfinished Empire, notes that

Few subjects in history evoke stronger opinions than the making of empire. Indeed, some historians of empire still feel obliged to proclaim their moral revulsion against it, in case writing about empire might be thought to endorse it. Others like to convey the impression that writing against empire is an act of great courage: as if its agents lie in wait to exact their revenge or an enraged ‘imperialist’ public will inflict martyrdom on them. These are harmless, if rather amusing, conceits. But they reveal something interesting: that for all the ink spilt on their deeds and misdeeds, empires remain rather mysterious, realms of myth and misconception.

This is partly the result of thinking in monoliths. ‘Empire’ is a grand word. But behind its facade (in every place and time) stood a mass of individuals, a network of lobbies, a mountain of hopes: for careers, fortunes, religious salvation or just physical safety. Empires were not made by faceless committees making grand calculations, nor by the ‘irresistible’ pressures of economics or ideology. They had to be made by men (and women) whose actions were shaped by motives and morals no less confused and demanding than those that govern us now.

He complains that these misconceptions lead to a history in stereotypes; to a cut—and—dried narrative in which the interests of rulers and ruled are posed as stark opposites, without the ambiguity and uncertainty which define most human behaviour. Darwin points out that

This view denies to the actors whose thoughts and deeds we trace more than the barest autonomy, since they are trapped in a thought-world that determines their motives and rules their behaviour. It treats the subjects of empire as passive victims of fate, without freedom of action or the cultural space in which to preserve or enhance their own rituals, belief-systems or customary practices. It imagines the contact between rulers and ruled as a closed bilateral encounter, sealed off from the influence of regional, continental or global exchange.

We need to ask ourselves if Black Panther contributes to this stereotype or helps us to escape from it. On the answer to that question may depend how we judge, regardless of its artistic merit, the political validity of its underlying ideology.

What will ultimately get us to the root of this malaise and deal with the cancer that is racism – and all other afflictions emanating from the illusion that any human being is essentially superior to another?

Perhaps it is only the truth of these words which will cut through and shred the lie behind those illusions, and then repair the fragments of our humanity to wholeness:

‘I will announce the decree of the Lord: the Lord said to me, “You are my Son. It is I who have begotten you this day.”’ The power of the truth of those sacred words has moved men and women throughout history to cut through prejudice, greed, deceit and rapine. We might ask ourselves if all this heightened identity conflict is not the result of the loss of our sense of our core humanity, the true basis of our identity as created beings? We might also reflect on the fact that this fragmenting conflict is a phenomenon generated within western culture and its propagation has not a little of the odour of imperialism and colonialism about it, perhaps the latest manifestation of those perpetually meddling twins.

Something “abhorrent to any civilised society”

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Pawns in a pro-choice game

The chilling implications of the underlying philosophy of those advocating the repeal of Ireland’s constitutional protection of the right to life of all human beings were laid bare last week in the Irish parliament. Currently a committee of elected members is hearing evidence from those proposing and those opposing repeal.

Professor William Binchy, an expert in constitutional law, challenged both those advocating repeal and the legitimacy of international pressure being put on Ireland to make this change.  Clearly the implications for civilization of an argument which gives one human being the right to choose to end the life of another innocent and defenceless human being brings us back to not just the dark ages but to one of barbarism  where right and wrong are no longer rooted in reason but on the whims of individuals.

Human rights, Binchy explained to the members of the Committee – some of whom seem incapable of comprehending the truth of what he was saying – are based on the inherent and equal worth of every human being. “Human beings have human rights, not because they are given by legislators or courts, but by reason of their humanity.” Commenting on what advocates for change are saying, he claimed that, if accepted, they would make it lawful to take the life of a child on request, with no restriction as to reasons, and also where the child has a significant foetal anomaly. “If human rights are to have any meaning, one human being should not be entitled to choose to end the life of another, innocent and defenceless, human being. The idea that our law should authorise the taking of a child’s life with ‘no restriction as to reasons’ is, frankly, abhorrent to any civilised society.”

A big effort has been made by the campaigners for abortion in Ireland to put focus on the cases of rape and on cases where children in the womb are diagnosed with disability. They say that a law which does not allow abortion in such cases is “inhuman”. Binchy addressed this, saying that “terminating the life of a disabled child because of the child’s disability is not consistent with respect for the child’s equal right to life.” Our society, he went on, has been founded on the value that no one has the right to choose to hurt, let alone kill, another innocent human being . Professor Binchy explained that on the basis of the supremacy of choice, the philosophy behind “right to choose” with “no restriction as to reasons” – these are the terms of the law being proposed to Irish legislators – implies the right to take the life of another human being.

On the campaign tactic of the Irish abortion lobby to enlist the support of UN agencies and monitoring committees – which are peopled with die-hard “right to choose” advocates,-  he stated categorically that the international human rights treaties which Ireland has ratified do not provide for a right to abortion. If they were in conflict with the Irish Constitution they would not have been ratified by Ireland. Any comment from the monitoring committees of the international treaties does not change the meaning of the treaties. Their members, Professor Binchy maintained, are earnest supporters of the “right to choose” philosophy and Ireland has no obligation to change its Constitution to get it in line with their views.

He was also highly critical of the submission of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission on the issue. He himself was a member of this Commission in the past. He said that if the proposals were implemented, they would involve abortion with little or no restrictions in practice, i.e. a regime of abortion on demand. “Throughout its Policy Document, the Commission never addresses the entitlement of children before birth to be protected from having their lives ended. It offers no reasons why such a profound discrimination against them should be proposed. Alarmingly, it presents no objections from a human rights perspective to late term abortions.”

On recession, regression and renaissance

They said it would take ten years. It did, just about that. I’m no measurer of economic development and progress but it does seem that the Great Recession is over and the waters of a kind of prosperity are lapping the shore once more. In Ireland we are more or less on out feet again, if some recent headlines are to be taken at face value.

“New property millionaires are being created at a rate of a dozen a week. There are now close to 4,000 homeowners in Ireland whose property is worth €1m or more”. Not to mention the spectacle of cranes flying over the City of Dublin. It is now ranked fifth in the world for prime retail rent growth.

That headline and those cranes might be a two-edged sword and doubtless will be causing some to cross their fingers in the hope that it is not a sign of a boom before the next bust.

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A Dublin skyline

But what about the more crippling recession – or rather, regression? Any sign of remission there? It is a regression wider, deeper and ultimately more damaging than any in the material order and it is still draining the blood from the living tissue our civilization. We now live in nations where values have become so fragmented and have been so weakened by their fragmentation that they no longer seem up to the task of holding our societies and communities together.

However, there are voices calling us to our senses. Eugene Vodvolaskyn, Russian academic philologist and novelist is one. Joseph Ratzinger, emeritus Pope Benedict XVII, is another. Philosopher Roger Scruton is a third. There are more – but where are their disciples, without whom they will just be voices crying in the wilderness.

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Eugene Vodvolaskyn

All three of these see a two-fold development in our culture which is near the heart of the disintegration which threatens us: excessive individualism and secularization. It is twofold because the one leads to the other. Indeed, like malign cells in the body, they complement each other and feed off all around them. Excessive individualism has no room for the Other – and certainly no room for God. Secularism, by eliminating God, has nowhere to lead us except to worship the Self.

Scruton in his book, On Human Nature, reminds us of how Milton conjured the truth of our condition from the raw materials of Genesis, and in doing so set a standard for art which was truly human. We might add Dante, Shakespeare and Cervantes, like Milton, inheritors of the treasures of the High Middle Ages who have never been surpassed in their vision of what is is to be human and divine. Modern man and much of his literature, his philosophy, his politics, in his flight from God is a wrecker.

“Take away religion, take away philosophy, take away the higher aims of art,” Scruton writes, “and you deprive ordinary people of the ways in which they can represent their apartness. Human nature, once something to live up to, becomes something to live down to instead. Biological reductionism nurtures this ‘living down,’ which is why people so readily fall for it. It makes cynicism respectable and degeneracy chic. It abolishes our kind — and with it our kindness” (P.49).

Pinpointing these two maladies as key issues to be faced if our civilization is to be rescued from this regression, Vodvolaskyn traces the degeneration in this way:

“In the modern age, the individual required recognition. Faith required lack of faith so that the believer would have a choice and so that faith wouldn’t be a mere everyday habit. This train gathered speed but didn’t stop. It kept moving even after reaching its station. It now seems to have gone pretty far beyond its destination. The cult of the individual now places us outside divine and human community. The harmony in which a person once found himself with God during the Middle Ages has been destroyed, and God no longer stands at the center of the human consciousness.”

Vodvolaskyn echoes the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his famous “Warning to the West“, given after his exile from Russia.  Humanism of the modern age, the former tells us, takes it that the human being is the measure of all things. While, he says, the same could be said of the Middle Ages, there is one vital qualification. “For medieval man there was one correction: The person is the measure of all things, if it is understood that the measure was given by God.”

Roger Scruton adds that thinkers in the eighteenth century compounded the degeneration. He rightly points out that our academic political philosophy has its roots in the Enlightenment, in the conception of Citiznship that emerged with the social contract. That contract replaced inherited authority with popular choice as the principle of political legitimacy. Not surprisingly, he says, it has had little time for piety, which—if acknowledged at all—is confined to the private sphere” (P 126).

The concept and definition of “person”, explored by Scruton in his book, is a key to the entire crisis. Our civilization has now such a garbled concept of the person, its nature and dignity, its unified essence as body and soul, that it has all but shipwrecked us on the rocks exposed by the receding waters.

Without the correction supplied by medieval man, in Vodvolaskyn’s view, humanism becomes inhuman. With excessive individualism, the rights set down for the individual multiply. The Russian foresees a demand inevitably coming for a right to cross the street against a red light. Take that literally or metaphorically. Ultimately, he argues, because our concept of rights is anti-humane at its core, it activates the mechanism for self-destruction. “The right to suicide turns out to be our most exemplary liberty.”

Ireland, not too long ago was still a safe place to negotiate the world, to raise a family, to pursue the good life. It was holding on, albeit somewhat superficially, to the more metaphysical world view characteristic of the Middle Ages which Vodvolaskyn identifies. It is no longer so, at least in the urbanised and materialistic sectors of its population. While there are still many there who feel that true value and virtue have been swept away by fickle modernity, there are many others rejoicing and celebrating the change.

What has happened to Ireland is what is likely to happen to any cluster of humanity whose moral compass is put in the hands of entertainers, celebrities and a political class whose members care more about their media image and so-called legacy than about the true good of the people.

Ireland may be fast approaching a cultural condition illustrated by Vodvolaskyn in the following anecdote. He recounts an encounter, some 20 years ago, with a Dutch pastor, an advocate of The Netherland’s culture of tolerance, who took him on a tour of Amsterdam.

“The Dutch people are tolerant, he told me, and hence in Amsterdam, there are no ethnic or religious minorities, an achievement made possible by the fact that although a majority of residents are of Dutch descent, only around 25 percent call themselves Christian. His enumeration of the achievements of Dutch tolerance concluded with an account of the removal of a stanza about the help of God from the national anthem of the Netherlands. As you can understand, explained the pastor, various people have various gods, and they can be offended that the anthem names only the Christian God. This is a triumph for tolerance, isn’t it? Listening to him, I thought, if this is a triumph, what would catastrophe be like?”

That was before the spectre of jihad made its appearance on Dutch soil. One wonders what the pastor is thinking today.

Vodvolaskyn, in an essay entitled ‘The New Middle Age’, published in First Things over a year ago, as a philologist might be inclined to do, identified the world as a text.

“As in the Middle Ages, the world itself is becoming a text, though the texts vary in these two cases. The medieval world was a text written by God that excluded the ill-considered and the accidental. The Holy Scripture, which gave meaning to the signs that were generously scattered in daily life, was this world’s key. Now the world is a text that has any number of individual meanings that can be documented. Think of the blogger who describes, minute by minute, a day that has passed.”

But the modern age, with its false humanism, centered exclusively on man, repudiated the Christian vision. The progressivist delusion clouded the picture and abandoned the vision of a unified world where the past and the present were one force.

Vodvolaskyn, being Russian, looks at the modern world from that perspective. But he is also profoundly Christian and fully aware of the historic unity of spirit which Christianity brought to what we call the West. He is also deeply optimistic about the potential which this spirit still has to transform and renew the now decaying civilization in which we find ourselves.

Both Vodvolaskyn and Joseph Ratzinger – surely not only one of the greatest popes of the modern age but also one of its wisest political philosophers – see that the changes that have to come have to take place in our hearts as well as in our culture and in our reason-based political institutions. For both of them utopian dreams are paths to disaster for mankind – as they have shown themselves to be from Cromwell’s time up to the age of ISIS.

Ratzinger points out in Values In A Time of Upheaval:

“The enthusiastic messianism of an eschatological and revolutionary character is absolutely foreign to the New Testament. History is, so to speak, the kingdom where reason rules. Although politics does not bring about the kingdom of God, it must be concerned for the right kingdom of human beings, that is, it must create the preconditions for peace at home and abroad and for a rule of law that will permit everyone to ‘lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way’ (1 Tim. 2: 2). One could say that this also implies the demand of religious freedom. Similarly, the text is confident that reason can recognize the essential moral foundations of human existence and can implement these in the political domain.”

Scruton, for his part, warns us of the totalitarian traps which the modern philosophies of Peter Singer and Derek Parfit , both icons of progressivism, set for us with their consequentialist moral reasoning.

“Both philosophers overlook the actual record of consequentialist reasoning. Modern history presents case after case of inspired people led by visions of ‘the best,’ believing that all rational beings would adopt those visions if only they would think about them clearly. The Communist Manifesto is one such Vision. It gives a picture of ‘the best’ and argues that all would work for it, the bourgeoisie included, if only they understood the impeccable arguments for its implementation. Those who stand in the way of revolution are self-interested; but they are also irrational and would change sides if they thought seriously about principles that everyone could will to be laws. Since their interests prevent them from thinking in that way, violent revolution is both necessary and inevitable.”  (P97)

Vodvolaskyn argues for a conservative project and thinks that if the West is able to move beyond its geopolitical disagreements with Russia, it will see one possible future for our common European civilization. One of his fears, which he elaborates in another more recent essay, is that if Russia attempts this by means of a harsh dictatorship of the majority, then it will fail and destabilize society no less than, say, “the dictatorship of the minority that we can observe at times in the West.”

Today as ever, he holds,—contrary to progressive conceits—it is possible for a society to recognize a place for religion and uphold traditional notions of marriage and family. For Scruton it is not only possible. It is essential. In his book he subscribes to the “deep insight” shared by Burke, Maistre and Hegel, that the destiny of political order and the destiny of the family are connected. “Families, and the relationships embraced by them, are nonaccidental features of interpersonal life.”

Contemporary progressivism’s deconstruction of the family is at the heart of our society’s catastrophic regression.

But piling hope upon Vodvolaskyn’s hope, we look for a new Renaissance. But this renaissance will not be a rediscovery of the ancient world. It will be a rediscovery of the treasures of the Middle Ages, cast aside so dismissively by those who consider the word medieval just another expletive. Western Europe, Russia, and the United States, he maintains, represent various branches of a single tree. The basic systemic feature of this civilization is Christianity, both as a religious practice and as a specific kind of culture. If European civilization is fated to survive, it will require a rediscovery of Christianity. And that will, he says, take place both on the level of persons, of  nation-states and at a pan-European level.

Once more, we live in hope.

A tale of David and Goliath?

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It is not just Apple which is testing the loyalty and commitment of the Irish to the European project. Ireland is now, along with Apple, challenging the European Union’s demand that this Corporation pay a double-digit billion tax bill to Ireland. Strange as it may seem – although it is not at all strange – Ireland sees much more value in the employment Apple and multiple other giant investors bring to its economy than it does in a once-off windfall. Add to that the dilemma which Brexit has confronted Ireland with and the unthinkable is beginning to become more and more thinkable. Where ultimately does Ireland’s interest as a thriving economy and as an independent nation lie – inside or outside of the European Union?

Yesterday, in the Dublin paper, the Sunday Business Post (see here), an Irish diplomat and former Irish ambassador to Canada, Mr. Ray Basset, wrote of his worries about the path of least resistance which the Irish administration seems to be taking on the question of the terms of Britain’s exit from the Union.

Irish economist and journalist, David McWilliams, comments at length on the implications of what Basset is saying, implying as he does that the Irish government has decided that there is no special relationship with Britain, and that our attitude to Britain and Brexit will be subservient to the EU’s attitude.

“The idea that there is no special relationship”, McWilliams says, “is not only patently false (I’m writing this from Belfast, for God’s sake!), such a cavalier attitude to our nearest neighbour is extremely dangerous economically, verging on the financially treacherous.”

“Insane” is his description of the view that Ireland’s position with respect to Brexit is in any way similar to that of France or Germany or, worse still, to the likes of Hungary. Why? There are multiple reasons: “There are 500,000 Irish citizens living in England. We have a land border with Britain and a bilateral international treaty, the Good Friday Agreement, with London.

“We are umbilically attached to Britain in our two most labour-intensive industries, agriculture and tourism, where the British are by far our biggest clients. One-third of our imports come from Britain. The Dublin/London air corridor is the busiest route in Europe and one of the busiest in the world. In fact, the Irish airline Ryanair is the biggest airline in Britain, carrying far more British people every year than British Airways.”

McWilliams’ very perceptive comment lays out some of the details of the folly he perceives in what appears to be the Irish States’ status quo on negotiations. For him it is tantamount to a  government acting against the interest of its own economy. Apart altogether from the social and economic rupture between Ireland and Britain which the hard line which European negotiators are currently taking on Brexit would cause, there is the risk of a potential trade war with Britain where Ireland can only be damaged immeasurably.

McWilliam’s analysis and fears make a great deal of sense – up to the point where he goes on to protest that he is not himself a eurosceptic – or anything like it. Admittedly he is worried about Europe’s federalist agenda and its implications. Michel Barnier, the EU’s negotiator on Brexit, is a committed federalist.

“Under his federalist vision, the Irish consulate in Spain would be scrapped – so that if an Irish lad got a battering from the Guardia Civil, for example, there would be no Irish consulate to listen to his case and help him out. He also advocated in this report to close down all (Irish and other) consulates in non-EU countries and replace these with one EU consulate.”

McWilliam’s argument, however, is that we should stay in the EU, but draw the line at the present EU. “We shouldn’t embrace any further integrationist stuff nor sign up to any further federalist projects. This means doing precisely the opposite of the Brits. Rather than following the British out of the EU, we should vow never to leave it. The EU can’t kick us out. There is no mechanism. We should simply opt out of Mr Barnier’s plans. This means we have full access to the EU, but we don’t need nor want to go any further – not because of some cultural aversion, but because it’s not in our interest.”

But surely there is a great weakness in that argument, a weakness which the history of Ireland’s relationship with the Union screams out to us. There is no stopping the European juggernaut. When Britain tried to modify it, to bring it to a more common sense position and one which would show more respect for the sovereignty of the nations which make it up, it was in effect sent packing.

Consider the  negotiations of David Cameron when he tried to head off Brexit. Like a famous predecessor he proclaimed that he had plucked a flower from a bed of nettles – but what he got turned into the nightmare which destroyed his political career.

Ireland’s history of two referendums on European treaties where it said “no” to the path Europe was taking speaks for itself. It was soft-soaped, sent back to think again and came up with the “yes” which the juggernaut needed to go forward.

There are many who think that the juggernaut has already gone down the path of self-destruction. It may be so – and this may be the only way that a little country like Ireland will be able to find it own way and exercise the self-determination it needs to make its way in the wider world – which is where its future must surely lie.

Which is what Nigel Farage is essentially saying here.

 

“Parents are well aware a moving child in the womb is a human being”

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The fact that Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny’s new minority Government is somewhat lame does not seem to be stopping him pushing ahead with what he thinks is a populist demand to further liberalise Ireland’s abortion laws. He has announced that he is going ahead with the  Citizens’ Assembly promised by the last Government – which he also led – to prepare the ground for this change.

For those who recognise the humanity of the child in the womb, awaiting birth, this is just another piece of window-dressing of shameless political manipulation. It is an attempt to sell to the Irish people something which in their hearts they abhor. A similar strategy was used three years ago with a hand-picked “expert group” was setup by health minister, James Reilly to give pre-ordained advice to him which resulted in an earlier liberalisation of the law.

The Irish Pro Life Campaign describes this decision to bring forward the setting up of the Assembly on abortion is “a knee-jerk reaction to the disgracefully one-sided report last week from the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) which set the rights of the unborn child at zero and ignored the devastating after-effects of abortion for many women.”

Last week, the UN Human Rights Committee commented on a complaint brought by an Irish woman who was unable to have an abortion in Ireland when she was told that her baby would not survive to birth, or very long afterwards.  In those comments, the UNHRC said that the Irish State had subjected her to “intense physical and mental suffering”.

Commenting on yesterday’s announcement from the Government, Cora Sherlock of the Pro Life Campaign said:

“This Assembly is being set up with one purpose only and that is to pave the way for a referendum to strip the unborn child of its last remaining Constitutional protection. Every member of Cabinet knows that the UN Committee that commented on Ireland’s abortion laws last week has a track record in only pushing abortion and has never once taken a stand against the appalling abuses internationally in the abortion industry. For example, the UN Committee in question has never brought countries like England and Canada to task over the barbaric practice of refusing to give medical assistance to babies born alive after botched abortions.”

The public campaigning for this change in the Republic has been relentless since ‘liberal’ Ireland’s gay marriage victory last year. The pro-abortion pressure groups have the media in their pockets for this one as well. The ratio of pro-abortion stories being run on radio and in print is still in the region of the 30:1 bias exposed last year. It bears no relation to the actual balance of public opinion on the matter. The figure for that which is now routinely trotted out is a pro-abortion one from a poll run for Amnesty International. That organisation’s Irish arm is now the country’s highest profile campaigner for abortion. For some reason its fundraisers on the streets do not seem to as ubiquitous as they were heretofore. One wonders why? Could it be that too many shoppers are seeing them as collectors for Abortion International?

Colum Kenny, an Irish  Times columnist, in an balanced article in that paper earlier this month – a welcome but rare enough event for that paper – suggested that the “entry of Amnesty International into this domestic debate is problematic. Its rationale for sidelining the rights of the unborn, on the basis that human rights only begin after birth, is unconvincing.
Even permissive abortion regimes recognise it is not appropriate to terminate a foetus after a certain point sometime before birth. Parents are well aware a moving child in the womb is a human being. Has Amnesty no policy on the healthy but defenceless foetus that might be aborted only for personal or state convenience?”

A call to Ireland to take a stand against genocide

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The Irish Government will be called on this evening to formally recognise as genocide the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities at the hands of ISIS. John Pontifex, Head of Press and Information at Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) UK, a leading campaigner on behalf of the rights of persecuted Christians, will make the call at a talk he is giving on the topic tonight in Dublin.

He has just returned from a fact-finding trip to Syria, visiting Christians and others in Homs, Damascus and rural districts plagued by violence, persecution and extreme poverty. In his work with ACN, he has visited Iraq as well as other parts of the Middle East, Pakistan, China, Sudan, Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.

“On trips to Syria and Iraq” he said today, “I have seen with my own eyes the churches that have been repeatedly desecrated by Islamic State, I have met the people driven from their homes and I have also spoken to those who have been kidnapped, their lives threatened. The evidence makes plain the intent of the persecutors to flush out individual sections of society; that is why the Irish government should join with others in recognising the actions in question as genocide according to the definition given under the UN Convention on Genocide. Nor is this genocide only against Christians; it recognises Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as victims too.”

The US House of Representatives recently voted by 373 votes to nil to recognise as genocide what is happening to religious minorities at the hands of ISIS. The European Parliament voted in favour of a similar resolution late last year.

The talk in Dublin takes place tonight at 8pm and is entitled ‘Genocide: how Christians are being killed and driven out of the Middle East for their faith’. It is being jointly hosted by Aid to the Church in Need Ireland and The Iona Institute. It is will chaired by historian and political activist, Dr Martin Mansergh. It takes places in the Alexander hotel, Dublin 2. Admission is free.

Hope for the powerless?

 

 

 

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Ireland’s parliament – Dáil Eireann

For most of the time ordinary people don’t want power. They just want to get on with their lives. Democracy relieved them of dictatorial, aristocratic and oligarchic abuses of power. In our democratic age we expect that all we have to do is choose, every few years, reasonable, just and capable people to look after our public affairs for us – and all will be well. That seems to be enough power to keep us going. But something radical has now happened. We do not seem to be in this comfortable place anymore.

David Brooks reflected on “powerlessness” in a column in the New York Times last week, relating it to an essay by George Orwell reflecting on an incident in his time as a colonial policeman in Burma back in the 1930s.

“In his essay”, Brooks tells us, “nobody feels like they have any power. The locals, the imperial victims, sure didn’t. Orwell, the guy with the gun, didn’t feel like he had any. The imperialists back in London were too far away.” He thinks this is the way much of the world is today, with everyone afflicted with a widespread sentiment that power is somewhere other than where you are.

Suddenly, we are not so sure that anything we think, say or do matters anymore. If it did why do I have to suppress this sense of fear and loathing every morning as I make my way to work past the Irish parliament and the offices of the prime minister of my country?

Brooks, writing in the American context, speaks of the confusion he sees right across the social and political spectrum where every group feels it is being hard done by in the system. A Pew Research Center poll asked Americans, ‘Would you say your side has been winning or losing more?’ Sixty-four percent of Americans, with majorities of both parties, believe their side has been losing more.

“Sometimes”, Brooks says, “when groups feel oppressed, they organize by coming up with concrete reform proposals to empower themselves.” He cites the Black Lives Matter movement as an example of this kind of response.

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George Orwell

Here in Ireland some people afflicted by this “powerlessness” syndrome hope that new political parties might give some respite. Others despair even of that when they look at the options that new fledgling parties provide. They hope that the wave of independent  non-party representatives expected in the next Irish parliament – the general election for a new Dáil will take place in about five weeks from now – will at least throw up something to relieve their pain and their anxiety. Others just look on this as a vain hope, convinced that what they see as a mildly to severely corrupt political and media establishment will manipulate the system to keep themselves in power.

Brooks thinks that “the feeling of absolute powerlessness can corrupt absolutely. As psychological research has shown, many people who feel powerless come to feel unworthy, and become complicit in their own oppression. Some exaggerate the weight and size of the obstacles in front of them. Some feel dehumanized, forsaken, doomed and guilty.”

The ultimate stand of the hopeless is a defiant but pointless one and is made when they feel overwhelmed by isolation and atomization. Having lost all trust in their own institutions, they respond to powerlessness with pointless acts of self-destruction. Brooks cites what is happening in the Palestinian territories as a classic example. “Young people don’t organize or work with their government to improve their prospects. They wander into Israel, try to stab a soldier or a pregnant woman and get shot or arrested — every single time. They throw away their lives for a pointless and usually botched moment of terrorism.”

In the United States today, on a macro level, everyone seems to be scratching their heads and asking themselves how this particular electoral cycle leading to the election of their 45th President got so crazy. On a micro level they are agonizing over the strange dysfunction of their legal and law enforcement system which two Columbia University journalism graduates have exposed in their riveting documentary series on Netflix, Making a Murderer.

For Brooks the first is a perversion brought about by feelings of powerlessness. As regards the second, no one seems to have any answers. It all ends up compounding the despair.

Brooks sums up the American dilemma: “Americans are beset by complex, intractable problems that don’t have a clear villain: technological change displaces workers; globalization and the rapid movement of people destabilize communities; family structure dissolves; the political order in the Middle East teeters, the Chinese economy craters, inequality rises, the global order frays, etc.”

Irish citizens seldom agonize over all of these issues – because they don’t expect their chosen representatives to have to deal with them. Our hapless and helpless representatives had to rely of an international troika of the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank to dig it out of the mess they let the country fall into in the mid 2000s. The smug way in which the current political establishment now claims credit for the troika’s vigilance in having guided us to a reasonably safe haven fools some but angers others.

Is Ireland safe from the horrors of the unsafe verdicts and law enforcement shenanigans portrayed in Making a Murder? Irish radio last week was debating whether the dreadful scenario presented in the series could happen in their blessed land. Indeed it could – and from time to time there have been suspicious signs that something like it has.

On the political front, thirty-eight percent of the Irish electorate looked on in dismay last year as a united phalanx of political and media forces effectively consigned the already badly wounded natural institution of marriage to the rubbish heap of history by effectively redefining it out of existence. In the previous year the same coordinated forces took the first step in removing from Ireland’s laws and constitution the right to life of unborn children. It is now building up forces again to complete this work and get Ireland to join the world club of states which judicially take the lives of millions of innocent human beings every year. Ireland legislators will do this again with the help of hand-picked lackeys to form “expert groups” and “citizen forums”, the modern equivalent of the packed juries of former times which put the veneer of justice on the killing willed their masters.

The citizens who see these developments as catastrophes feel as powerless as victims confronted by an alien force from they know not where. Their fear is compounded by the fact that this force comes in the form of a human agency whose framework of values is totally out of sync with everything they know about human nature, human dignity and natural justice.

The consequences of the exercise of power by this agency – or agencies either under their control or influence – are the cause of the loathing that they feel. Among these consequences are the slaughter of the unborn, the termination of lives considered “limited”, whether youthful or aged, the destruction of family and the redefinition of human nature itself by the adoption of a crazy gender ideology.

Some but not all of these things have arrived in Ireland. But they surely will and the feeling of powerlessness to do anything about it in the face of an entrenched alien force is breeding despair. How ironic is this in the very year in which Ireland’s people “celebrate” the centenary of the rebellion which led to their winning independence from Britain?

For more than 700 years Ireland was subject to the British Crown. For much of three centuries of that era, up to the later part of the 18th century, her people suffered bitter and lethal persecution for adhering to the principles of their Catholic Faith. There are many who now fear that the Irish political and media establishment’s adherence to new definitions of humanity contrary to their Faith will usher in an new era of persecution.

In Ireland’s history, constitutional change and violent rebellion, sometimes one, sometimes the other, were resorted to as a way of rectifying injustice and of bringing persecution to an end. The hope is that the former will be the means of choice this time to restore to the powerless their democratic voice in the face of something which at times does not look too far removed from a new tyranny.

In looking for a solution to the problem in his country Brooks argues:

To address these problems we need big, responsible institutions (power centres) that can mobilize people, cobble together governing majorities and enact plans of actions. In the U.S. context that means functioning political parties and a functioning Congress.

Those institutions have been weakened of late. Parties have been rendered weak by both campaign finance laws and the Citizens United decision, which have cut off their funding streams and given power to polarized super-donors who work outside the party system. Congress has been weakened by polarization and disruptive members who don’t believe in legislating.

If we’re to have any hope of addressing big systemic problems we’ll have to repair big institutions and have functioning parties and a functioning Congress. We have to discard the anti-political, anti-institutional mood that is prevalent and rebuild effective democratic power centres.

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David Brooks

So it may be for America – although I doubt it. In the Irish context is a party like Renua the solution? Or will it be the Social Democrats, or Sinn Fein? I doubt it even more. Why? Because none of these parties have anything of the vision of mankind which has in it the core truths which would enable it to frame consistent policies – social, political or economic – which will meet the needs of our nature and the aspirations which arise from that very nature. Some individuals within these movements have such a vision but these are dismissed by the establishment as “sanctimonious” dreamers. But these are the only hope that the powerless have. The fact is that there is no coherent collective voice in evidence yet which convinces the powerless that there is an alternative vision by which their country might be wisely and justly governed.

Until there is this substance in those currently hollow shells which pass for policies among all these alternatives, any new solution to our powerlessness will be fruitless. Until then the political and moral bankruptcy of our time will continue to plague us.